The Indonesian Declaration of Independence, 17 August 1945

This coming Monday, 17 August 2020, will be the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Indonesian Declaration of Independence. Unfortunately because of Covid restrictions we will not be able to celebrate appropriately.

Timing is everything.  After the Japanese surrender on August 15, 1945 and the resulting power vacuam, now is the time to declare Indonesian independence. However Soekarno and Hatta as the leaders of the independence movement were hesitant and needed confirmation of the Japanese surrender. On August 16, Soekarno and Hatta are kidnapped? by the younger revolutionaries and taken to the village of Rengasdengklok, where they are pressured to declare independence in Jakarta on the following day. After reaching an agreement, Soekarno and Hatta return to Jakarta that evening to finalise the text.

Blitar Peristiwa+Rengasdengklok

The Indonesian Independence leaders discussing the draft of the Declaration of Independence at Rengasdengklok, 16 August 1945


Hatta and Soekarno at Rengasdengklok with the draft Declaration. 16 August 1945

It was difficult to balance the interests of the Japanese military, the interests of Soekarno and Hatta, and those of the younger revolutionaries. For this reason the finally agreed declaration was kept as simple as possible


The handwritten draft of the Declaration of Independence, 17 August 1945


The Declaration of Independence is formally announced by Soekarno and Hatta at 10am on the morning of 17 August 1945. Soekarno stated in his opening speech:

Saudara- suadara sekalian

Saya telah minta saudara-saudara  hadir disini, untuk menyaksikan satu peristiwa mahapenting dalam sejarah kita.

Berpuluh- puluhan tahun kita bangsa Indonesia telah berjoang untuk kemerdekaan tanah air kita – bahkan telah berates- ratus tahun!

 Gelombang aksi kita untuk mencapai kemerdekaan kita itu ada naiknya, dan ada turunnya, tetapi jiwa kita tetap menuju ke arah cita-cita.

Juga didalam zaman Jepang, usaha kita untuk mencapai kemerdekaan nasional tidak  berhenti-berhentinya . Didalam zaman Jepang ini tampaknya, bahwa kita menyandarkan diri kepada mereka. Tetapi hak ekatnya, tetapi kita menyusun tenaga sendiri, tetapi kita percaya pada kekuatan kami sendiri.

Sekarang tibalah saatnya kita benar-benar mengambil sikap nasib bangsa, dan nasib tanah air kita, didalam tangan kita sendiri. Hanya bangsa yang berani untuk mengambil nasib dalam tangan sendiri akan dapat berdiri dengan kuatnya.

Maka kami tadi malam telah mengadakan musyawarat dengan pemuka-pemuka rakyat Indonesia dari seluruh Indonesia. Permusyawaratan itu seIa sekata berpendapat bahwa sekaranglah datang saatnya untuk MENYATAKAN KEMERDEKAAN KITA!

Brothers and Sister All! I have asked you to be in attendance here in order to witness an event in our history of the utmost importance. For decades we, the people of Indonesia, have struggled for the freedom of our country – even for hundreds of years! There have been waves in our actions to achieve independence which rose, and there have been those that fell, but our spirit still was set in the direction of our ideals. Also during the Japanese period our efforts to achieve national independence never ceased. In this Japanese period it merely appeared that we lent on them. But fundamentally, we still continued to build up our own powers, we still believed in our own strengths. Now has come the moment when we truly take the fate of our actions and the fate of our country into our own hands. Only a nation bold enough to take its fate into its own hands will be able to stand in strength. Therefore last night we had deliberations with prominent Indonesians from all over Indonesia. That deliberative gathering was unanimously of the opinion that NOW has come the time to declare our independence. Brother and Sisters, we hearby declare the solidarity of that determination. Listen to our Proclamation.


Kami, bangsa Indonesia, dengan ini menyatakan kemerdekaan Indonesia.

Hal-hal jang menenai pemindahan kekoeasaan d.l.l., diselenggarakan dengan tjara saksama dan dalam tempo jang sesingkat-singkatnja.

Djakarta, hari 17 boelan 8, tahoen 45

Atas nama bangsa Indonesia



Blitar !Indonesia_declaration_of_independence_17_August_1945

Soekarno together with Rear-Admiral Maeda and  Hatta reads out the Declaration of Independence on the front steps of his house

Following which he announced:

Demikianlah saudara-saudara kita sekarang telah merdeka! Tidak ada suatu ikatan lagi yang mengikuti tanah air kita dan bangsa kita!  Mulai saat ini kita menyusun negara kita! Negara merdeka! Negara Republik Indonesia! Merdeka kekal abadi!  Insya Allah Tuhan memberkati kemerdekaan kita ini.

So it is, Brothers and Sisters! We are now already free! There is not another single tie binding our country and our people! As from this moment we build our state. A free state, the State of the Republic of Indonesia – ever more and eternally independent. Allah willing, God blesses and makes safe this independence of ours!


Blitar SoekarnoDoaProKemRI

Soekarno prays for the future of the newly declared Republic of Indonesia. 17 August 1945

DSCN0682 - Copy
Blitar Indonesian_flag_raised_17_August_1945

Ceremony of raising the Indonesian flag after the Declaration of Independence, 17 August 1945

The flag was hand sewn by Soekarno’s wife Fatmawati. After the raising of the Indonesian flag the group sing the Indonesian National Anthem ‘Indonesia Raya’.


Blitar Sukarno_arriving,_Impressions_of_the_Fight_September 1945

Soekarno arriving at Merdeka Square to speak to the Indonesian people. 19 September 1945

The Pemuda Youth Group had organised a mass rally in Merdeka Square to celebrate independence on 19 September 1945. The Japanese military banned the gathering because of their fear that it would lead to a mass riot and to confrontation between the Indonesians and the Japanese military, who had their guns trained on the Square.

Blitar Sukarno_blocked_from_speaking,_Ikada Square

Soekarno blocked by Japanese military  from speaking at Merdeka Square. 19 September 1945

Soekarno is stopped by the Japanese military from  attending the mass rally. Until a compromise is reached whereby he agrees to give a short speech, which he later describes as his ‘State of the Union Adress’ and then tells the enthusiastic crowd to peacefully disperse.

Blitar Sukarno_speaking_on_podium,_Impressions_of_the_Fight_..._16 August

Soekarno speaking to the Indonesian people at Merdeka Square. 19 September, 1945

Blitar Sukarno_and_Hatta_together,_Impressions_of_the_Fight_... 19 September Merdeka Square

Soeharto and Hatta together at Merdeka Square. 19 September, 1945

The Preparatory Committee for Indonesian Independence (PPKI) had met in June and July to prepare a constitution for the proposed Independent Republic of Indonesia. This was announced on the 18 August 1945 and is better known as the 1945 Constitution.

On August 29 the Central Indonesian National Committee (KNIP) was established with 137 members and its first plenary session was held on 16 October 1945

Blitar Sutan Sjahir opening the first plenary session of October 1945

Prime Minister Sutan Sjahir opening the first plenary session of the Indonesian National Committee (KNIP) on 16 October 1945 with Soekarno and Hatta presiding. Does anyone know who is the other leader seated with Soekarno and Hatta?

Photographs sourced from various Indonesian national archives.

Thanks to Anthony Liem for providing the text of Soekarno’s speech.

Thanks to Toni Pollard for providing the image of the handwritten draft document

About ianburnet

Author of the book, Spice Islands. Which tells the History, Romance and Adventure of the spice trade from the Moluccas in Eastern Indonesia over a period of 2000 years. Author of the book, East Indies.Which tells the history of the struggle between the Portuguese Crown, the Dutch East India Company and the English East India Company for supremacy in the Eastern Seas. Author of the book 'Archipelago - A Journey Across Indonesia'. Author of the book 'Where Australia Collides with Asia' Author of the book 'The Tasman Map'. Author of the book 'Eastern Voyages'.
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6 Responses to The Indonesian Declaration of Independence, 17 August 1945

  1. Bama says:

    Just yesterday I was talking with my best friend, had there been no pandemic, there would have been a huge celebration of this year’s independence day anniversary. I’m curious how much subdued the event at the presidential palace would look like.

  2. ianburnet says:

    Thanks Bama for your comment. Unfortunately Covid has got in the way of everything!

  3. Denis O'Hara says:

    While I was not born in 1945, in the fullness of time I look at it being such a short history since Independence. Time, events and progress fly.

  4. Anthony Reid says:

    Well done Ian. There are some nice photos there, a couple of which I hadn’t seen before.

    I think the third figure on the podium alongside Sukarno & Hatta is Ahmad Subardjo, who played a critical role in the Independence negotiations as a veteran nationalist very close to Maeda, and head of the ‘Kaigun (Navy) Group’ protected by Maeda and based around an asrama for young activists including Wikana. At the time of this photo he was Foreign Minister, and the only one of the cabinet (except for Information Minister Amir Sjarifuddin still in jail) who was not a prominent collaborator of the Japanese either in Jawa Hokokai (Sukarno-Hatta) or as the senior Indonesian figure in each Department of Government under the Japanese.
    Keep up the good work,
    Tony Reid

  5. Mike Coppin says:

    A nice potted account, Ian. Also good to see some photos I hadn’t seen before.

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